Honeysuckle got the better of Benie Des Dieux in an titanic tussle for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux claimed the Grade One prize in 2018 and looked sure to follow up 12 months ago until suffering a crashing fall at the final flight.
Having since won Grade Ones at Punchestown and Auteuil before making a foot-perfect comeback in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park, she was the 4-6 favourite to regain her crown, despite facing a serious rival in Henry de Bromhead’s 9-4 shot Honeysuckle.
Unbeaten in seven previous starts, including victory in last month’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, the six-year-old travelled strongly for much of the way under Rachael Blackmore, but looked at the mercy of Benie Des Dieux in the hands of a motionless Paul Townend racing down the hill.
However, Honeysuckle quickened the better of the two rounding the home turn to steal the advantage, and try as she might, Benie Des Dieux could not get back on terms in the straight, with half a length separating the pair at the line.
De Bromhead said: “They are two amazing ladies. It was a great bit of race-riding to nip up the inside when Paul opted to go wide and it looks like it won her the race. Rachael had to sit and suffer for a bit, but when the gap appeared she was gone.